Prospect Profile: Francisco Peguero

Francisco Peguero has drawn notice after red-hot start to spring training. Now, all the usual caveats about spring training stats apply (namely, don’t pay attention to them), but Peguero has a long history as a highly-regarded prospect in the Giants system. Now, as he strives for a 25-man roster spot, I wanted to highlight him for my first Prospect Profile, in what I hope will be a recurring series.

Francisco Peguero at the 2012 World Series Parade. (Flickr/geekstinkbreath)

Francisco Peguero at the 2012 World Series Parade. (Flickr/geekstinkbreath)

Personal Information: Francisco Peguero is 24 years old, and his birthday is June 1st, 1988, making this his age-25 season in baseball parlance. According to the roster I picked up at Spring Training a couple weeks ago, he is 6’0″ tall and weighs 190 lbs. He is from Nigua in the Dominican Republic. He signed on August 8, 2005, shortly after his 17th birthday.

The Good: Andrew Baggarly described Francisco Peguero as “the most tooled-up guy in the system” in his write-up on the Giants for Baseball America in 2011. Of the “five tools” you hear scouts talk about (hit for contact, hit for power, run, field, arm strength), Peguero ranks as potentially above-average in all of them except hitting for power. He’s highly regarded by scouts, having ranked among the Giants’ top-10 prospects for the last four years according to Baseball America. He was the 10th-best prospect in 2010, 4th-best in 2011, 5th-best in 2012, and 8th-best in the most recent iteration of the list.

His best tool is likely his contact tool, manifested in both his low strikeout rates and his high batting averages. He has quite a bit of speed, as well, which contributes to his above-average defensive ability. He stole 40 bases in 2010 at San Jose, but he was caught 22 times so I’m not as excited about that aspect of his game.

After undergoing knee surgery in both 2011 and 2012, it appears he is finally healthy for the first time in three years. Not coincidentally, 2010 was his last truly excellent year. As a 22-year-old in the Cal League, he hit .329/.358/.488 with 40 SB and 45 XBH (including 16 triples!).

The Bad: His last two seasons have been rather underwhelming. After hitting a respectable .309/.318/.446 in Richmond in 2011, he hit a disappointing .272/.297/.398 in Fresno last year. Although he only had nine steals combined in those two seasons (176 games), there’s reason to believe he was instructed by coaches not to run as much following the two knee surgeries. After his call-up in September of last year, he served as mostly a defensive replacement and pinch runner, and stole three bases in only 17 games. By both my untrained eye, and the eyes of more experienced baseball people—scouts, beat writers, etc.—it appeared Peguero was back to full strength in September.

But the real concern with Peguero is his atrocious walk rate. He has a walk rate above 5.0% just once since coming over from the Dominican Summer League in 2008 (a 6.2% rate in 2008, he did have a 9.2% walk rate in 76 rehab plate appearances in 2011). It isn’t impossible to succeed with a walk rate that low, but it is exceedingly rare. Last year, only seven outfielders with a minimum of 400 plate appearance had a walk rate of 5.0% or less. Five of them had a wRC+ over 100, but all of those five had an isolated power of at least .180. Peguero has never in his minor league career had an ISO that high.

Conclusion: So what can we expect from Peguero going forward? The combination of a hyper-low walk rate and below-average power probably dooms Peguero to a ceiling of a fourth or fifth outfielder. I’d expect a triple-slash line of something like .270/.300/.400 – a useful player, especially when you account for plus defense and baserunning, but ultimately not a starter.

But Peguero’s off to a great start in spring training. He’s 12 for 29 so far, with two doubles, a triple, and four runs scored. He’s looked completely healed from those knee injuries, and he’s made a couple of eye-catching plays in the outfield. The path towards making the club is tricky – Cole Gillespie appears to have the inside track toward being the fifth outfielder, but Roger Kieschnick, Juan Perez, Gary Brown, and maybe Brett Pill are all in the mix as well. That said, Peguero’s looked great, and it’s easy to see the player that got Baggarly to wax rhapsodic two years ago.

Plus, if I’m not allowed to get irrationally excited about a player based on 29 at-bats in spring training, well then what is even the point of spring training?

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